An abandoned and forgotten about conservation project to encourage forest regeneration dating back to the nighties, has finally achieved a surprising victory almost two decades later.
In the mid-1990s, Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs, two ecologists from the University of Pennsylvania, teamed up with local orange juice producer Del Oro in Costa Rica to try to regenerate infertile grazing lands. Their plan was to dump thousand of trailers filled with orange peel onto sterile pastures to encourage forest regeneration. They wanted to highlight how agricultural waste could be used to regenerate forests. However, unfortunately, everything did not go as planned or at least at the time.
A few months in the project was abandoned after having been rejected by a competitor, TicoFruit, who argued that Del Ora had “made a mess of ” the soil. Despite the project being abandoned, the orange peel waste was never cleared. Over the years that followed Mother Nature ran her course. The deluge of nutrient-rich organic waste must have had an almost instantaneous effect on the land. Sixteen years later the now fertilized, formally barren grazing land have given way to a thriving tropical forest.
A team headed by Timothy Treuer and Jonathan Choi, researchers from Princeton University, recently analysed a three hectare plot of the forest. “It was so overgrown with trees and vines that I couldn’t even see the bright yellow lettering on the two-metre long sign which marked the site that was only a few meters from the road,” explained Mr Treuer. After taking soil samples, the two researchers attempted to determine to what extent the orange peelings had influenced the growth of vegetation. They compared their samples with samples taken from a nearby pasture which was not fertilized with orange peel.